Buff Review Show Gets Bored of Dragons, Goes Questing for New Thumbs Instead
Can somebody please loan me their thumbs so I can try and finish this accursed game? Here is a (near) full account of my time spent with the game. I’m going to go ice my metacarpophalangeal joints (lower fingers). Enjoy.
Crikey I’d forgotten how long some RPGs were. I’ve only had FFXIII in the past 18 months, or so, as a true, fully-fledged console RPG worth playing for the subsequent 80+ hours. There have been others filing into the 30-50 hour mark of course. I have to say though; Dragon Quest VI is going to be one of the longest handheld RPGs I’ve played in a long time. The attentive among you may have noticed the word “going” in the previous sentence. At the rate I am “going” it will take me another fortnight at least to complete this game. I went onto on of those handy walkthroughs, just to look through the contents list at the beginning, and found that at nearly 30 hours into the game I’m roughly 1/3 of the way through the main story. So the following is as full a review as possible, neglecting to mention just the ending really, as I seem to have experienced enough of the story, graphics and gameplay elements to give my opinion on.
First things first: DS games, and particularly RPGs, have a good history of using the touch screen to navigate through menus and abilities during battles, making that element of the game easier and more fluid for the player… is really what I SHOULD be saying, but alas, DQVI falls out of it’s starting blocks before anyone has even fired the pistol.
The game has next to no touch screen integration whatsoever. After all the time spent porting it onto the DS it baffles me that the developers didn’t have the decency to allow touch screen controls during battle. Oh, but it’s okay, because there’s a Slime mini-game you can play that uses the touch screen, so it’s almost as if the designers have used some effort and innovation isn’t it? Well no, not really.
Anyway, after my irritation wore off I decided just to get on with things and use good old-fashioned button-presses. I swiftly changed the battle message speed up to full, hoping that might assist me in speeding through the game a bit more. “What’s that?” the game seemed to say, reading my thoughts, “You want to get through this nice and quickly? Well we can’t have that,” it continued, crossing its arms and pouting like a perturbed child. Every single action, battle message, speech message, piece of text, item discovery, learnt ability, gained money, has to go through the RSI-inducing action of pressing the A button to continue on to the next instruction, screen of text, or menu, etc.
After a time I discovered I could mash in the characters’ battle instructions without even looking at the screen, and then mindlessly twiddle the 3DS thumb pad until the animations stopped and I was back at the main battle screen. This gave my thumbs a rest but still seemed to add about 20% more time to anything I did. I could have been halfway through the game if half of the faffing about and needless button mashing had been removed. I’m all for grinding and levelling up in RPGs, but when it takes so long and is so damn arduous that I have to resort to using other appendages just to spice up the monotonous drawl of selecting the next thing I have to do, I’m not really enjoying the game.
Right, I’m two-thirds of the way through this review and I’ve not talked about the characters or the story yet. Well what is there to tell you, really? You’re a nameless blue-haired Hero, who starts the game with two companions on a mission somewhere to defeat the villainous Murdaw (believe me, there are far worse character and place names that crop up later on), only to wake up back home and discover it was a dream. Or maybe it wasn’t. You’re not quite sure and really, the dream-hopping and other-world travelling that ensues soon gets a bit messy. I couldn’t tell initially if I was travelling between different worlds at the same time period, or different universes with different sets of characters and alternate places, similarly named but somewhat different to the “real world”, or whether I was travelling backwards and forwards in time, and OH MY GOD JUST TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON…
There’s a distinct lack of being told what to do in this game. As you gain characters, you can talk to them outside of battles and while walking round towns, but the information they provide so rarely of any help it’s a wonder they added the feature at all. Once this game gets going (about 10-15 hours in) things become much smoother. A clear path and story is set out, and I felt more aware of what I was doing and where/when I was doing it.
The vocation system (job/class system for those familiar to any other RPG) works very well once you finally get it, but it seems like you get it a little too late. You choose a vocation for a character to develop, such as Warrior, Martial Artist, Mage etc., and you must level these up to learn abilities. Once you master them, you can unlock new vocations and combine mastered vocations to attain super rare and more prized vocations later on. You level up vocations by defeating monsters, HOWEVER – you only gain experience points towards your vocations if the monsters you defeat are of a higher level than the character that defeated it. This means you’re constantly on the run trying to find stronger enemies because your characters keep levelling up too quickly, and you can’t make them stronger to continue the game without accessing some different vocations. The first 20% of the game was only there to unlock the ability to gain and change vocations…
On the whole, the characters are nicely varied and there are plenty of sub-quests to flesh things out, but expect to put in a good 80-100 hours into this one, folks. This game is lengthened by the amount of button presses you have to do, but the story, dialogue between the characters and the gameplay as a whole are good, marred only by development choices that I thought would have been bred out of RPGs on the DS by now. We’ve had the DS for some seven years; any developers failing to add smoother and faster touch screen controls, or reducing needless button- mashing ought to be pushed into an oubliette slowly filling with warm lard.
DQVI should have been a neat, snappy little RPG. But it starts off too flabby and slow, and does nothing to lose the excess weight throughout that getting through the damn game is like swimming through the aforementioned tidal wave of hot fat.